How can I use Leave Without Pay in Australia?

Leave without pay

Leave Without Pay (LWOP) is unpaid leave enabling an absence of employment that has been authorised or consented to by the employer.

In Australia, the majority of organisations will allow staff to take personal leave without pay (or LWOP as it might appear on a payslip) for certain reasons.

Common ‘Leave Without Pay’ reasons

It’s important to acknowledge that ultimately the Employer can grant LWOP for any reason with the following some of the common reasons employees ask for Leave Without Pay:

  • They need additional time off for an extended holiday but have exhausted all their annual leave.
  • Time off to study.
  • They are recovering from a major illness and have exhausted their sick leave or need to attend healthcare appointments.
  • Career Breaks.
  • They’ve recently become a parent and want to spend more time with the baby to support their partner but have exhausted their maternity/paternity leave entitlements.

Typically Leave Without Pay only applies or can be accessed when an employee’s annual leave or personal leave is exhausted.

Specifically related to COVID, as an employee, the situations where LWOP may apply include:

  • is in Government directed OR optional self-isolation and is not sick (i.e. has returned from overseas and feels well)
  • has come into contact with a known case of COVID-19 and is in Government directed OR optional self-isolation and is not sick
  • has come in to contact with a suspected case of COVID-19 and is in Government directed OR optional self-isolation and is not sick
  • is stuck overseas (on a cruise ship etc) due to COVID-19

Other things you should know about LWOP

  • While there is no general entitlement to unpaid leave under the Fair Work Act 2009, there are some provisions that deal with the question of when unpaid leave can be taken. In other cases, it is a matter for agreement between the employer and employee.
  • There are however two areas where unpaid leave is protected by law:
    • Caring or parental rights such as parental leave
    • Time off to carry out public duties, specifically jury service and magistrate duties
    • Outside of these two, unpaid leave approval is at the employer’s discretion.
  • An employee is not entitled to be paid for public holidays that fall during a period of leave without pay.
  • An employee absent on leave without pay does not accrue annual leave during that period of absence.
  • Long service leave will continue to accrue while an employee is on leave without pay, as the employee’s continuity of service includes periods of unpaid leave.

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